Shooting My Way Into the Scene
I find that leaving the camera off the tripod for a spell is very freeing. I can wander around unencumbered. Locking my camera on to the tripod feels sort of permanent. Once I find the composition that best fits my vision for the scene I’ll bust out the tripod […]
While I’ll sometimes follow the same sort of approach, in my reply on the topic I noted a different process that works for me. More often than not, I seem to set up my tripod (if I have one along) and begin photographing the scene relatively quickly. Of course, this presumes something about the situation appeals to me. Even if the appeal is a faint one, I often don’t just try to frame different aspects of the scene by eye to isolate the appeal; I’ll go ahead and shoot. But I’m pretty mobile about it, and work to avoid getting locked in on something that is too shallow or obvious due to not exploring deeper.
Since posting my reply on Bret’s site I’ve thought a bit more about this. Rather than just admit that I’m a “shoot first and ask questions later” kind of guy :), I have come up with an analogy — the idea of studies as practiced in the world of painting, drawing, sculpture and other visual arts.
I have great respect for photographers who can make the creative leap from visualizing in the eye & mind to capturing in the camera, going from looking at the scene through the viewfinder to taking that small number of photographs (possibly even just one!) that ideally captures their interpretation of the scene. But I often find that in order to get my creativity really engaged, I need to actively photograph rather than simply view or frame a setting. I often think of this as “shooting my way into the scene”. This is particularly advantageous for locations where I can spend a good chunk of time, or visit on multiple occasions.
Just as a painter, sculptor or other artist may initially prepare one or more sketches or studies before embarking on the final version of a composition at its full scale, shooting my way into the scene allows me to capture numerous aspects of the location. I can compare them against each other more thoroughly than in realtime by eye alone. If I make multiple visits, then in the intervening time I can evaluate details, textures, light, the interplay of subject elements, framing options and many other considerations on the path to determining a finished composition. If circumstances don’t work out to quickly get the finished version I’m after, I can maintain a visual record of the elements that appealed and hopefully revisit the scene at a later date when the situation is more favorable.
One of the tools that’s useful for shooting my way into the scene is a pocket-sized camera. I own and use the Panasonic LX3 and Canon G10, and one or the other of them is with me most of the time. Even if I’m not out deliberately planning to photograph, if I see something that sparks my interest, I can react right away and make a number of captures. Given luck, preparedness and my own creativity, a finished composition might result then & there. But if not, I can use the images as studies to reflect on and shape up another approach.
Of course, what I describe here isn’t a battle of techniques vs. the concept Bret laid out. It isn’t a matter of good or bad, one or the other. It’s all about finding ways to approach a scene, focus in on something compelling about it, and then realize that attraction in a final image. Any approach that works is a good approach!
If you’re a photographer, what’s your game plan? Do you ever use the concept of multiple takes and studies to work your way towards a finished composition?